Today, in Dalit History we remember the victims of Dulina, Haryana atrocity with immense pain and grief. On October 15, 2002, India witnessed one of the most gruesome atrocities carried out in the name of caste and “cow protection” by the dominant castes in the village of Dulina, in the Jhajjar district of the state of Haryana.
The general public almost assumes that “cow lynchings” are fairly recent phenomena but we must not forget that this practice of lynching Dalits and Muslims publicly has a long history. And in particular, the history of lynching Dalits in multiple ways is thousands of years old.
The state of Haryana is known for frequent and gruesome caste violence perpetrated against Dalits by the dominant communities. Dulina was among them. A few Dalits, whose traditional occupation was skinning dead cows went to purchase skins of buffaloes. One of the animal skin traders purchased the consignment of skins of buffaloes and cows from a licensed skinner. With a couple of other skinners, a vehicle was hired to take their goods to nearby Karnal where they were about to sell it at the wholesale market. The Dulina chowki was en route to their final destination.
This group of skin traders stopped the vehicle midway at a spot not far from the Dulina police station where they allegedly found a dead cow. They begin skinning it in order to add it to their consignment. A group of passerby saw that and assumed that they had killed the cow, took them to the police station. After which the news spread to the close by villages and an unruly mob of people gathered and attacked the police stations where the victims had been kept. They dragged the victims out and violently beat them to death.
The mobs numbered roughly 4000–5000! The killings also took place right before officials — three sub-divisional magistrates, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, the Station Head Officer and about 60 to 70 police personnel who had been sent out there after an emergency call. They seem to have just watched passively.
Subsequently, an enquiry committee was formed comprising entirely of police officials, including those present at the site of the killings. One of the shocking details of this case is that a post-mortem report of the cow was ordered by the superintendent of police and a case filed against the dead Dalits under the Cow Slaughter Act, 1960.
On the heels of an incredible act of violence, where five Dalit people were lynched on the pretext of cow slaughter, one of the leaders of the extremist Hindu group, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Giriraj Kishor, went on to justify these killings of Dalits. “Cow is considered more sacred than human beings in the Puranas (Hindu scriptures)” he said.
However, most accounts of the violence that took place that night were given by the police and remain dubious even to this day. The details and information given by the police related to the skinning of a cow in the middle of the road and the identity of those who sold the consignments to the victims are still questioned. There are several flaws in the versions of the police pertaining to the way in which the incident occurred. Many things didn’t add up. The Banswal Commission that was set up to conduct an enquiry regarding the incident also stated that the police and the city magistrate failed to take necessary steps to avoid the killing. Three administrative officials were prima facie found guilty of not handling the situation correctly and proceedings were initiated against them supervised by the Chief Secretary.
After a prolonged process of enquiry, on 9th August 2010, a district court awarded life imprisonment to seven convicts in the case. As a case filed under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (a piece of legislation set up to protect people from Dalit and Adivasi communities from violence and discrimination), the case should have been necessarily resolved in an expedited way. Additionally, considering the gravity of the incident, these delays were indefensible. Finally, a judge concluded that the crime was well-planned and premeditated. Out of 30 accused, 7 of them were convicted and found guilty of murder, rioting, trespassing, and other crimes. However, what’s important to note is that despite being a case of severe violence against people from Dalit communities, the case was not tried under the Prevention of Atrocity Act. On the contrary, various religious and social organizations took out a procession in support of the accused and demanded that no action should be taken against them. The support rendered to these men was massive primarily because of the dominant caste background that they belonged to.
The Dulina atrocity caused massive outrage across the country and showed that despite several protective legislations available, Dalits are subjected such brutal violence that left an irreparable impact in the lives of the victims’ families. Most of the families lost their breadwinners with no or limited source to livelihood. In addition, the procedural errors in the manner in which the case was conducted only display the prejudices existing in the judicial system towards Dalits. Most importantly, the Government denied that the killing of five Dalits in the Jhajjar district of Haryana was a deliberate atrocity against Scheduled Castes. Consider that Dalit communities have been forced through a system of caste slavery to remove cow and other carcasses and do leatherwork with the skins of dead cows and buffaloes. Because of this forced labour, they are considered impure, polluted and treated as untouchables. Then consider that they are lynched for doing this same work and that officials then deny that they have been killed for being Dalit. All of this amounts to gross injustice and criminal denial of the truth.
Today, we grieve the death of Dalits killed in Jhajjar. We pledge to stand by the victims and survivors of caste atrocities in their fight for justice.
This post was written for Dalit History Month by Ashwini KP. Ashwini is a researcher and works on issues related to human rights, Dalit women, caste and social exclusion. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lynching of Dalits at Jhajjar, Haryana- 1, http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4668:lynching-of-dalits-at-jhajjar-haryana&catid=122&Itemid=138
- Lynching of Dalits at Jhajjar, Haryana- 2, http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4674:lynching-of-dalits-at-jhajjar-haryana-2&catid=122&Itemid=138
- Lok Sabha Debates, Title: Statement regarding atrocities against Dalits in Haryana, Bihar and other parts of the country, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/566518/
- Dalit Lynching at Dulina: Cow — Protection, Caste and Communalism, http://pudr.org/sites/default/files/2019-02/jhajhar_dalit_lynching.pdf
- T.K. Rajalakshmi, Justice at Last, Volume 27 — Issue 18: Aug. 28-Sep. 10, 2010, Frontline, https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2718/stories/20100910271803400.htm
- S. Anand, Holy’ Cow And ‘Unholy’ Dalit, https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/holy-cow-and-unholy-dalit/217815
- T.K. Rajalakshmi, Bitter memories, volume 24 — Issue 23: Nov. 24-Dec. 07, 2007, https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2423/stories/20071207504504300.htm